The Chinese fleet is much larger than most people think or believe, and this is an element that could affect the United States to reconsider its naval strategy in the Pacific, experts say.
The PLAN will have between 313 and 342 warships by 2020, as estimated by the US Office of Naval Intelligence.
By comparison, in the middle of 2018 the US Navy was operationally operational in 285 warships.
But PLAN represents only one part of China’s total naval force, according to Andrew Erickson, a professor at the US Naval War College.
“China’s total naval force consists of three large subdivisions, each of which already has the largest, numerically, maritime power in the world,” says Erickson.
Apart from the PLAN, the other two organizations are the Chinese Coast Guard and the naval militias of the Popular Armed Forces or “PAFMM”.
Both Coast Guard and PAFMM help the Chinese Communist Party to pursue its foreign policy objectives.
“Without pursuing war but being determined to change the status quo, Beijing uses these enormous naval forces in the so-called gray belt naval operations to challenge the sovereignty of other states in the sea areas they claim, such as the Yellow, East and South North Sea, “the analyst said.
Coast Guard and PAFMM have developed alongside the PLAN, Erickson revealed. China’s second maritime force, the Coast Guard, is the largest in the world and has a total of more ships and boats than its “neighbors”, and in particular 225 ships over 500 tonnes capable of operating on the high seas and another 1,050 additional a total of 1,275 ships “
PAFMMs have also grown and streamlined. “From 2015, China is developing a military force with more professional, trained and well-paid units, with 84 large boats fully equipped to carry out the tasks assigned to them by the leadership.”
Combined, PLAN, Coast Guard and PAFMM have approximately 650 large vessels with military capabilities, while the Americans have a total of 645 ships. In other words, the US Fleet and the Fleet of China are about the same size, numerically.
On average, American ships are larger and more sophisticated, however, as Erickson explained, “numbers play an important role when it comes to preserving the presence and influence of the vital seas. Even the most advanced ship simply can not be in more than one place at the same time “.
In addition, US interests are global, while China’s interests are regional. “US Coast Guard forces are concentrating close to US waters, far from any international strife, while the US Navy is scattered globally, with many ships scattered and far from the East Asian sea areas, with other responsibilities and missions .
On the contrary, China’s entire naval force is centered on the disputed seas and its immediate vital interests, geographically favored by near-air and missile coverage, direct land-based operations through amphibious operations, and communications and supply lines from the continental country.
Of course, US allies are contributing with their own forces in the effort to manage China’s rise as a military force. But that does not mean that the United States should not rethink their own strategy in the light of China’s numerical advantage in this area.
“The US can show their strength and benefits to the Indo-Pacific, sharing more information about the three Chinese naval forces, emphasizing co-operation with allied forces in the region in the light of collective security and encouraging allies and partners to invest in military capabilities to complement the Americans’ effort in the region, “concludes Erickson.